What are the benefits and drawbacks of starting most new hires at the help-desk function?

The IT Department at Hamelin Hospital Hamelin Hospital is a large (700-bed) regional hospital in the northeastern United States. The information technology (IT) department employs 75 people and has an operating budget of over $35 million. The department is responsible for managing 30–40 projects, ranging from small (redesigning computer screens) to very large, such as multimillion-dollar system development projects that can run for over a year. Hamelin’s IT department has been growing steadily, reflecting the hospital’s commitment to expanding its information storage and processing capacities. The two principal functions of the IT department are developing new software applications and maintaining the current information system. Project management is a way of life for the department. The IT department jobs fall into one of five categories: (1) help-desk technician, (2) programmer, (3) senior programmer, (4) systems analyst, and (5) project manager. Help-desk technicians field queries from computer system users and solve a wide range of problems. Most new hires start at the help desk, where they can become familiar with the system, learn about problem areas, become sensitive to users’ frustrations and concerns, and understand how the IT department affects all hospital operations. As individuals move up the ladder, they join project teams, either as programmers or systems analysts. Finally, five project managers oversee a constantly updated slate of projects. In addition, the workload is always being supplemented by new projects. Team personnel finish one assignment and then move on to a new one. The typical IT department employee is involved in seven projects, each at a different stage of completion. The project management system in place at Hamelin is well regarded. It has spearheaded a tremendous expansion of the hospital’s IT capabilities and thus helped the hospital to gain a competitive advantage over other regional hospitals. Recently, in fact, Hamelin began “farming out” its IT services on a fee-for-service basis to competing hospitals needing help with their records, administration, order-entry systems, and so forth. Not surprisingly, the results have improved the hospital’s bottom line: At a time when more and more health care organizations are feeling the effects of spiraling health care costs, Hamelin’s IT department has helped the hospital sustain continuous budget increases, additional staffing, a larger slate of projects, and a track record of success. Questions 1. What are the benefits and drawbacks of starting most new hires at the help-desk function? 2. What are the potential problems with requiring project team members to be involved in multiple projects at the same time? What are the potential advantages? 3. What signals does the department send by making “project manager” the highest position in the department?


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